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Death....an introspective

A place for discussion that's not necessarily of a Gothic nature.
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long black veil
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Postby long black veil » Thu Oct 28, 2004 4:45 pm

I used to keep mice. now, I just keep one mouse: the other one died about a week ago. I am taking an english course on Shakespeare's tragedies, in which we just finished discussing Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare's bloodiest, by far, and a play with heavy themes about grief and mourning). so I've been thinking about death, and I have some things I'm interested in discussing.

~grief, mourning, and the inevitability of death~
I've kept mice before. I know that they don't last very long at the best of times, and that they're prone to illness (particularly cancer). I think that, coupled with their smallness (it's hard to take something seriously when it's so small you can completely enclose it in one hand) and the way they always run/ran away when I tri(ed) to pick them up and hold them (it's hard to emotionally connect with something that's afraid of you), made me distance myself from them. when my one mouse died (her name was Namah), I wasn't particularly grieved. the experience of holding her cold, stiff little body, wrapping it up in tissue, and burying it in the back garden shook me up, as did the way she behaved for about a day and a half before she died (she was very sick, and I think something was wrong in her nervous system), but I don't find myself mourning her loss.
I've considered getting a new mouse, and I think I will eventually, but I'm unsure of when. I feel like if I get one right away, it will reinforce my feeling of alienation from my pets: if I can replace Namah with a new mouse, she can't have been much of a "person" to me. my interaction with the new mouse, bought with this implicit understanding, will be coloured by my uncaring for Namah. but on the other hand, I don't want to hold off buying a new mouse out of false grief.
I can see similarities between this situation and the way I've felt coming out of my last few relationships. I tend to hang onto things until I've already emotionally severed myself most of the way, then move on immediately to the next thing. I don't know how to mourn a lost lover any more than I know how to mourn a lost pet; I'm not sure I know how not to disconnect.
I feel lost, but I feel like I'm disconnecting from that sense of lostness, because I don't know how to turn it into something useful.

~death rituals~
in closer relation to my english class, we were discussing post-mortem rituals a little, because of their significance in the play. we were addressing the question why do people bury or burn their dead? and my english prof suggested that it was primarily to draw a distinct line between the dead and the living: the dead are underground, and the living are not. it was also suggested that it was a way of not having to look at the bodies as they decomposed, thus allowing mourners to keep a memory of the person as more-or-less intact. however, I don't think that's the case, or at least not exactly. there are plenty of cultures which do not bury or burn their dead. some preserve them (like the Egyptians), and some expose them for the birds, beasts, beetles, and bacteria to dispose of (common in West Coast indigenous cultures), not to mention bizarre Western practices, such as cryogenic freezing. it seems to me that most customs could be viewed as attempting to maintain a parallel between the body and the "soul." there is something about a living person which disappears when (s)he dies, whether you choose to call it mind, soul, or something entirely different. but the body doesn't disappear at the same time. I think most of the things that humans are uncomfortable with, death included, can be viewed as imbalances, at least as regards our usual experience, and so we strive to re-balance things with whatever rituals we can.

and what are your thoughts?
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il lui est dit que l'art est la fantaisie et quand la fantaisie devient la réalité, il n'y a pas de besoin
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Postby blood_rose » Thu Oct 28, 2004 6:49 pm

Moved to General Discussion.





~blood rose~
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Postby Defender of The Faith » Thu Oct 28, 2004 8:35 pm

Hmm. I'm quite sorry to hear about the death of your pet, though I find what you have to say is quite interesting. I think your reaction to the deaths of your pet mice is justifiable because I could see, as you say, that it would be somewhat hard to connect with an animal that is so small and skittish. I've never kept mice or any pet of small size, I've only ever had cats and dogs as pets, and they (especially "man's best friend") become very attached to their owners. When my beagle passed away two years back, I was pretty broken up about it. He was a very old dog when he passed on (16 years old), I had grown up alongside of him, so it was natural to have that kind of relationship. I doubt that I'd have developed that kind of relationship with a mouse or a fish.

As far as grieving and mourning goes, my father's side of the family is of a very strong Irish-Catholic background while my mother's family is mostly German-Lutheran and not quite as devout. The family funerals I attended were quite different, but no less moving to me, mostly because these were relatives and I missed them, but also because I'm fascinated by ritual. I found both the ecuminical services for my mother's parents and the Catholic funeral masses for my father's parents (complete with a wake and a piper) to be spiritually moving and helping a great deal with my closure.

Mourning and closure are things that each of us experiences in different ways and to different extent. I think sometimes people feel put upon by society's norms that there is a "proper" period of time that we should be in mourning and a certain way that we are "supposed to feel" during that time. I would say that you and I probably experience grief and loss in quite a differrent way, long black veil, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

Now, as to death rituals, I wouldn't say that burial is all that much a way of drawing a line between life and death so much as it is a return to the earth. In the mythology of many cultures, humankind is essentially created by the divine out of clay or soil. This belief is most common amongst agricultural peoples who depend upon the soil for their survival, so it's easy to see why soil is considered as life-giving. And, as flowers and plants, and the leaves of trees do, when a human dies they are buried in the ground to decompose and become soil themselves.
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Postby NakiaAsabi » Fri Oct 29, 2004 1:17 am

I too am sorry about the death of your mouse. I had mice at one time, although for me they were not pets, they were food for my pet snakes and so it was pretty imperative that I keep a distance from them. One of my snakes was a 10 1/2 foot Columbian Red Tailed Boa Constrictor. She was gorgeous. But she required something bigger than mice or rats. So we started raising bunnies. It was MUCH harder to stay detached with them. This lends some credibility to your theory that it is harder to become attached to smaller pets.

But, and please don't laugh, I just had a pet die. Two in fact. They were sea monkies. I know that might sound ridiculous to some, but I really did mourn their passing. Once when I was a child, my sister got sea monkies and she tried to hatch them and raise them up. They hatched and then all died. She threw the whole aquarium away after a matter of days. But I was able to keep a sea monkey alive for over a year. I have no idea about their normal life spans, but this sea monkey was not letting go! It got big too. You didn't need the little bubble magnifiers that come with the aquarium to see him (he was a 'him' to me for whatever reason). I called him Moby because he was like a whale compared to other sea monkies I had ever seen.

If you let the aquarium of a sea monkey evaporate some and then put fresh water in, you can have a second hatching. I did that, and from the new sea monkies that emerged, one other grew to a large size. For whatever reason the others died. If I didn't know that they don't eat their own, I would have thought the two monster monkies were eating the others.

Anyway, long story a bit shorter, they died. And I did actually find myself mourning them. I didn't cry, or carry on, but I can't bring myself to empty the aquarium and buy more. I keep hoping when I pass by the aquarium that they will have just been hiding from me and I will see them. I miss them. They had personality to me and that is why I think I got attached to them even though I had never touched them before. Personality. If a pet shows a lot of personality, at least for me, I will start to consider them as more of a "person", if that makes sense.

As far as the comments about the rituals that are performed after the body dies, I think that it isn't so much a matter of drawing a line between the dead and the living, because that line is drawn. Even if a dead person is not in the ground, you really do have a very clear idea that they are different than the living. I think a lot of the rituals are just done from tradition, but different cultures started those traditions for different reasons.

I think burying the dead in American cultures is to return the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust". Like Defender of the Faith said, the body is meant to return to the soil to complete a circle of life thing. For the Egyptians, they entombed their dead but they prepared the bodies for their new lives in their version of the spirit world. They believed that the person kept living but in a very different way. They put gold and in some cases killed and entombed servants so that they would have these servants and riches in the afterlife. This was meant to prepare them for the next life and to honor them.

Honestly, to me, I think that funerals are mostly for the living and very little has to do with the dead. At least this seems to be true of the funerals I have been to or been involved in. It's about giving the living a chance to feel appropriate sorrow for the dead and to find some sort of closure so they can psychologically begin to move on in their lives. This is why when some funerals are closed caskets, people sometimes have difficulty moving on because they can't believe their relative is dead somehow because they didn't see the dead body. Morbid, maybe, but definitely true.

Anyway, I've really rambled here, so I'm going to stop. Thanks for introducing this interesting topic.
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Postby long black veil » Fri Oct 29, 2004 2:49 pm

I had a feeling I would like this forum. I have found that for the most part I can replace pets, however, humans are irreplacable and live on in my memory forever. In that sense, I believe that it is right and OK to emotionally sever my ties to a pet and move on to the next one. On the other hand, this is impossible with humans and whether I like it or not, I can never fully detach myself from someone that I formed a deep bond with. Perhaps this is based on the nature of the species, or the level of genetics or experiences that I share with the other individual. Certainly, I share far more with another human, and in some ways they become a part of me over time. In this way, they never go away and reside in my memories for better or worse. -j; )
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il lui est dit que l'art est la fantaisie et quand la fantaisie devient la réalité, il n'y a pas de besoin

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Postby NakiaAsabi » Sun Oct 31, 2004 9:25 am

long black veil WroteColonI had a feeling I would like this forum. I have found that for the most part I can replace pets

Many pet-lovers would disagree with this statement though...as I would. I have a cat and a dog (and minus two sea monkies *cries*). My cat, Bandit, is nothing like any of the other cats that I've ever had. He's got a personality all his own. He's actually got two personalities...lol. We call him our "duel personality" kitty because sometimes he can be so sweet and so loving and then the next minute he's a crazed little shit who has this look in his eyes like, "I HAVE TO GET INTO TROUBLE, NOW!!!" And thereafter he usually does. We call his other personality El Bandito.

Anyway, onto my point...

If Bandit were to die, I don't think he'd be easily replaceable. I mean, I could go get another cat maybe even one with the same markings (although maybe not, his markings are unusual), but that new cat wouldn't have the same personality as Bandit and just wouldn't be the same kitty. I would mourn Bandit's passing and become quite depressed if he died. So whereas I might be able to replace my cat, I can't replace my Bandit.

Same with my puppy Sadie. She's really the first dog I've had that I remember (my parents had a dog when I was a baby hence 'remember'). And again, I could get another dog, but if Sadie dies that's it. There's no other Sadie out there for me. Just other dogs each with their own personality as well.

Anyway, just my continued thoughts...
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Postby long black veil » Sun Oct 31, 2004 11:39 am

NakiaAsabi WroteColonIf Bandit were to die, I don't think he'd be easily replaceable. I mean, I could go get another cat maybe even one with the same markings (although maybe not, his markings are unusual), but that new cat wouldn't have the same personality as Bandit and just wouldn't be the same kitty. I would mourn Bandit's passing and become quite depressed if he died. So whereas I might be able to replace my cat, I can't replace my Bandit.

I dont believe its about duplicating the pet. I think its about letting the healing proccess run its course, then moving on. If you lost a spouse to death, I dont think you could ever find anyone to "replace" them, but you could meet someone else in the future and build on something new. Same with the pet. You will always remember them fondly, but that should not stop you from accepting a new pet to fill that role in your "family". Would your deceased spouse want you to stop living your life and spend the rest of your life mourning them ? Not if they really loved you. Same with "kittie".-j; )
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il lui est dit que l'art est la fantaisie et quand la fantaisie devient la réalité, il n'y a pas de besoin

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Postby NakiaAsabi » Sun Oct 31, 2004 12:19 pm

long black veil WroteColon
NakiaAsabi WroteColonIf Bandit were to die, I don't think he'd be easily replaceable. I mean, I could go get another cat maybe even one with the same markings (although maybe not, his markings are unusual), but that new cat wouldn't have the same personality as Bandit and just wouldn't be the same kitty. I would mourn Bandit's passing and become quite depressed if he died. So whereas I might be able to replace my cat, I can't replace my Bandit.

I dont believe its about duplicating the pet. I think its about letting the healing proccess run its course, then moving on. If you lost a spouse to death, I dont think you could ever find anyone to "replace" them, but you could meet someone else in the future and build on something new. Same with the pet. You will always remember them fondly, but that should not stop you from accepting a new pet to fill that role in your "family". Would your deceased spouse want you to stop living your life and spend the rest of your life mourning them ? Not if they really loved you. Same with "kittie".-j; )

Well, I generally agree with all of that. :)
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Postby Amethyst_Dreams » Sun Oct 31, 2004 1:20 pm

I think everything has pretty much been explained already about the rituals and such. But about the mourning of people and pets, I feel bad when any pet dies. Even if it is a fish my brother had for 3 days, I feel a little depressed. Yes, it might sound silly, but I do get upset when an animal/pet dies. I have a pet dog, and he is the sweetest thing. He's the family's baby. Really. He's not young but he's a baby. (He's afraid of the toaster, his food bowl, paper plates, etc.) :b If he died, I would bawl my eyes out. He's just like a little person to me, and I love him to death. I could never -ever- replace that dog. But I don't think an animal needs much "personality" to be mourned. It has a life of its own no matter how long or short it is, and that connects me to that animal. Could be just that I like animals and get rather emotional at times...but there's my input.




AD - Goes off to play with doggie ^^
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Postby NakiaAsabi » Mon Nov 01, 2004 7:17 am

Amethyst_Dreams WroteColon(He's afraid of the toaster, his food bowl, paper plates, etc.)

I've been thinking of a creative way to put my puppy on a diet. Making her afraid of her food bowl might do it...lol.
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Postby Ninsuna » Mon Nov 01, 2004 11:39 am

Amethyst_Dreams WroteColon... I feel bad when any pet dies. Even if it is a fish my brother had for 3 days, I feel a little depressed. Yes, it might sound silly, but I do get upset when an animal/pet dies. I have a pet dog, and he is the sweetest thing. He's the family's baby. Really. He's not young but he's a baby. (He's afraid of the toaster, his food bowl, paper plates, etc.) :b If he died, I would bawl my eyes out. He's just like a little person to me, and I love him to death. I could never -ever- replace that dog. But I don't think an animal needs much "personality" to be mourned. It has a life of its own no matter how long or short it is, and that connects me to that animal. Could be just that I like animals and get rather emotional at times...but there's my input.

I have to agree, im a real animal lover so i get upset when a pet dies. I cried my eyes out when my cat died, because I had her since she was born, and so it was really hard when she died as she was part of the family.
I couldn't ever replace her either, there wouldn't be another cat that would ever be like her. Animals have their own personality like people do.
I can be quite an emotional person sometimes....
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Postby Amethyst_Dreams » Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:00 pm

NakiaAsabi WroteColon
Amethyst_Dreams WroteColon(He's afraid of the toaster, his food bowl, paper plates, etc.)

I've been thinking of a creative way to put my puppy on a diet. Making her afraid of her food bowl might do it...lol.

:b
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Postby Ixen » Mon Nov 01, 2004 3:54 pm

I think death rituals are a way to respect the dead, and the way these rituals are done deppend on what people happens in the afterlife. Egyptians thought their people take theior bodies to the afterlife so they preserved them for 'the journey'.
Vikings (i think) believed that the man needed to take his last voyage after death. So they loaded a raft with the viking's sword, shield, armor, etc. and (sometimes) his wife and two slaves.
In the modern day many don't think bodies are taken in the afterlife, so we toss them in a coffin and throw them in a hole. Or we burn them and put them on our shelf. :p

Anyways, rituals depend largely on beliefs.

I do agree that the larger things matter more to us. That's how it is in this world, it's all about size. The larger the thing, the more we become attatched to it.

That's just what I think. Great topic though.
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Postby blacksab » Tue Nov 02, 2004 1:01 am

long black veil WroteColonI I think most of the things that humans are uncomfortable with, death included, can be viewed as imbalances, at least as regards our usual experience, and so we strive to re-balance things with whatever rituals we can.

and what are your thoughts?

These are my thoughts.

My father died about 11 years ago. Based on religion wise, a funeral rite is essential .

So now let me change the ink.

If i was born a free thinker and a family member passed on, i still think a funeral is indeed needed. Not as a response to re balance things. I thinkthat in the ritual, it is the best time to respect the life the dead one lived and to look back on the good he did in your life. And to mourn for your lost.

I am comfortable with death, it comes and passes you by. A funeral rite i think is a way to acknowledge someones death and his journey in the living world. It should not be done because it feels right to do so, though. It has to come from the within , your reason to attend it.

If the dead one wasnt given a funeral, or at least a moment of silence , it only means that 1) the dead left behind no family of any kind. 2) the dead died without people knowing (think wars and kidnapping) or 3) the living did not feel that his passing means anything..
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Postby RaiseNero » Wed Nov 03, 2004 7:38 am

I have much different views on death. I really don't think it matters to the dead person what we do with the body when they die, and if they don't care, why the hell should I? When I die, people could do with me whatever they want and I don't think I would mind. In the event that there's an afterlife of any sort, I'm not going to be hanging around my body to see what people do with me, I'm gonna be off doing whatever it is spirits do. If there isn't an afterlife, it's not an issue.

I think grieving isn't really based on size, but rather the complexity of the relationship. If you have a relatively simple, cyclic relationship with your mice, then your grieving is probably going to reflect that, it'll be a simple cyclic grieving process. If you have a complex relationship with something, then you have more of a problem letting go or dealing with the issue. I think the same goes for lost lovers.

It's like when I get this game that I really like, and I know it's been 4 years and the community for it has really gone away, but I just don't want to let go, I want to live in the golden days when the game was at its height of popularity. So I go through this crazy grief/nostalgia process where I get all depressed that it can't be the way it used to be, but I try to play it anyway to relive the memories. And all those bugs that the game had that I used to complain about are now the little flaws that made it so distinct in the first place, and I was just taking it all for granted. Maybe it's very sad how I think of my relationship to games as a complex relationship akin to death of organic creatures.

Anyway, that's what I think about it.
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